Border Stories: Imagine leaving your home and never coming back
"When I returned to see my house, I saw only ruins. The only thing still standing was our wardrobe. I opened it and saw Milana's doll...." - Zara, a refugee from Grozny, Chechnya
During October, Australians will be asked to imagine what treasured possessions they would take, if they were forced to leave their home and never return.
International medical aid organisation and Nobel Prize winner Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is presenting 'Border Stories', an exhibition of objects belonging to ten of the world's refugees.
"We have decided it is time to bring the plight of refugees home, to humanise the people behind the faceless millions around the world." says Jacqui Tong, MSF 'Border Stories' spokesperson. "We have collected the personal stories and treasured possessions of 10 of the world's thirty-five million displaced. A doll, a book, keys: all have a past, and when displayed with photographs of their owners, they reveal 10 dramatic and individual stories."
Australia's peak medical organisations have joined forces with MSF as 'Border Stories' is launched around the nation - to demand on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers the right to protection and to be treated with dignity, humanity and respect.
MSF has committed itself to provide essential medical, psychological and logistical aid to refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers. It is committed to sustaining and defending these people's right to safety. The aid organisation works not only in the countries that refugees have fled from, but also in the key regions that receive them.
"Everyday our field teams see the problems facing refugees and displaced people first hand: forced repatriation to their homelands still in the grip of war, obstruction of humanitarian assistance, border closures to prevent new floods of refugees. Millions of people continue to be denied their right to protection," said Jacqui Tong.
The issues that Australia and the rest of the Western world face in hosting and protecting refugees are different from those in Asia and Africa. Australia, after all, receives very few refugees in comparison to many other countries. Australia was once at the forefront of progressive human rights initiatives, such as helping to draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention. But it has now reversed its position, interpreting the Refugee Convention in the most restrictive manner possible - so that those fleeing persecution often do not get the opportunity to seek asylum and find safe refuge here.
"Most Australians, luckily, will never be forced to resort to such drastic action as fleeing their homes, fortunate as they are to live in a country that is free from tyranny and on-going violence," says Jacqui Tong. " We hope that by visiting 'Border Stories' the Australian public will develop a greater understanding and empathy for those forced to flee persecution and war."